“By training employees in handling hazardous materials, we can use their knowledge of their industry, but also these industry-specific potential problems.”

Not all who respond to emergencies are public servants; some are just employees.

When it comes to dealing with hazardous materials, Wayne Morgan, head trainer and chief scientist for Kansas Safety Training Center Inc., explained that employees should know about what they’re working with and how to prevent emergencies.

“By training employees in handling hazardous materials, we can use their knowledge of their industry, but also these industry-specific potential problems,” Morgan said. “Employees know what the chemicals are, while the fire department might not know until they get started in an emergency.”

The result is the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response certification course offered Feb. 13 through 17 at All in One Safety in McPherson.

“People need to know about how to deal with hazardous waste and what the emergency response is,” said Courtney Warden, owner of All In One Safety. “A lot of people in different industries could benefit.”

The HAZWOPER certification is required by Occupational Safety and Health Administration for a number of industries.

The course covers decontamination procedures, emergency responses and a bit of chemistry as well. Participants will take a 40-hour course, which will be taught by Kansas Safety Training Center Inc. at All In One Safety.

The certification is a result of 40 years of cleanup, reports OSHA. The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 were passed in response to the growing issues from hazardous waste incorrectly disposed in years prior.

Though the course stemmed out of emergency situations, the current certification is used as a preventative measure.

“Sometimes people worry that there’s some imminent danger when people are training for the worst, and that’s not always the case. Obviously, there’s lots of dangerous chemicals around McPherson that are classified as hazardous, but hazardous doesn’t always mean it will kill you today,” Morgan said. “These things have to show a quick physiological impact on someone to be considered this type of hazard. Not like asbestos, which take 30 years, but things that take hours or minutes to have a toxic effect. Just because we’re preparing for these emergencies doesn’t mean we’re preparing for a chemical Armageddon. This is just another part of preplanning and preventative work so the goal is to not have anything happen. But if we do, we’re ready for it.”

According to OSHA, the HAZWOPER standard specifically applies to any employees who are exposed to hazardous substances and who are engaged in several operations like clean-up, treatment, storage and disposal of hazardous waste. Though the course is available in online formats, OSHA recommends learning material in person.

“When we see these people face-to-face, we can do hands-on projects in groups based on specific scenarios on their workplace,” Morgan said. “You embed trust in these individuals who may be working in an emergency response situation that could be life threatening. Oftentimes, we develop a bond between coworkers that could save their life in the future. We hope they never encounter something that bad, but should they, they’ll have that same experience to fall back on in an emergency.”

After gaining certification, employees will need to take an eight-hour refresher course once a year to maintain certification.

The class will be held at All In One Safety, 1411 Highway 81, McPherson on Feb. 13 through 17. For more information, call 620-504-6012.